Sunday, July 8, 2012

Finding inspiration

"Finding" is often linked with "loss." In writing though, it has more to do with discovery. I begin my writing session every morning about the same time, expecting to achieve something useful before I stop for lunch. If I am working on a story that I have already begun, picking up where I left off isn’t very hard. Reading the last things I wrote, looking at notes about where I was planning to go next, are all I need to get the flow going. But what about starting with a clean screen or sheet of paper? That requires inspiration.

Looking for things that will start the words flowing is a sure way to miss what’s really already out there. My own way is to simply begin by writing whatever is in my mind as my fingers hover over the keys. It may even be "I have no idea what I want to write today," or something even less inspiring. I have decided over the years that the first words are really unimportant. It is sort of like starting a car. You have the battery in place, there is fuel in the tank, and everything turns over as it should. As soon as you get things moving, the engine fires and begins running by itself . . . most of the time.

I find inspiration in words and also in actions. Seeing something on my morning ramble with Teddy the dog, looking at the birds coming and going to the feeders on the deck, watching a squirrel or rabbit or chipmunk, glimpsing a deer or bear on its way to the river, or sometimes just looking up at the sky, following the movement of the clouds are all things that make ideas surface in my mind. The words that inspire me may be as simple as a story in the newspaper or an e-zine in my email, a recollection of a conversation from the night before, or a line in a book I read before bed. The writer’s craft is being able to recognize among any or all of those stimuli the essence or germ of a story. It may become an essay or a chapter in a novel or a story that stands alone in 200 words or less. Part of the thrill of writing (for me) is seeing something real and true come out of the chaos that is life. I sometimes do sit down and plot a story or an essay, but the final draft seldom matches the original outline.  One must begin somewhere.

Years ago I read an interview with a well-known writer. He responded to a question about his writing habits by saying that every morning he sat down, rolled a clean sheet of paper into his typewriter, and began. If he didn’t have the first word already in mind, if he had no idea where he was headed, if he was suffering from that mysterious malady known as "writer’s block," he would, he said, simply begin with the word "To." It seldom failed him, he reported, but when it did (as it sometimes must), he would simply write: "To hell with it," get up and leave.

That’s enough inspiration for today.

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